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New York man dies, leaving $40 million unclaimed

Officials are still searching for an heir after a 97-year-old man died, leaving behind a fortune of $40 million and no will. The elderly millionaire from Staten Island died in 2012. Since then, hundreds of people, mostly from Europe, have tried to cash in on the fortune by sending letters with sorrowful stories, family trees and photos.

The man, who was a Holocaust survivor from Poland, accumulated his wealth as a real estate investor. He never married and has no known, living relatives. In fact, most of his relations who lived in Poland were killed in the Holocaust. The millionaire ignored his lawyer's advice to set up a will even though records of all his finances, paperwork and personal letters were preserved.

The task of finding a secret, lawful heir or a secret will hidden away somewhere has been left up to the Richmond County Public Administrator. The administrator and crews even searched the walls of the man's home for the will but found jewelry and gold instead. According to reports, his fortune will be placed with the New York State Office of Unclaimed Funds.

In situations where a person dies without a valid will or trust, the estate of the decedent is distributed according to state intestacy law. For example, according to the intestate laws in New York, if a spouse dies and did not have a legal will prepared, his or her estate will be equally divided among the living spouse and any children, even though the decedent might have wished otherwise. People who find themselves in situations where a loved one has died intestate or without a valid will may wish to consult with an estate administration attorney who may be able to help protect their rights to inheritance.

Source: CBS New York, "Staten Island Officials Search High And Low For Heir To $40 Million Fortune", June 25, 2014

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